After a productive first-year campaign with the New York Jets in 2014, wide receiver Eric Decker is expecting better things team-wise this upcoming season. And with the big time free agency additions (Darrelle Revis, Buster Skrine, Antonio Cromartie), the trade for Brandon Marshall, and the drafting of USC defensive end Leonard Williams, how could he not? Busted Coverage caught up with Decker to touch on those subjects, as well as his involvement with Purina’s Paw It Forward movement. Oh, there may or may not be some Tim Tebow talk too!
Busted Coverage: Last night was the first round of the NFL Draft, how much were you keeping tabs on rumors and potential targets for the Jets?
Eric Decker: You know I was actually at a draft party last night with a bunch of Jets fans, so I got to see the pick with them. Honestly, like all players, you don’t really know who’s going to get picked or what the direction is. There are a lot of rumors about trades happening and things going on, but it seemed to be a pretty standard first round. As far as our pick, I was excited about it. Williams is a tremendous player, had a good, successful career in college. To add to that defensive line we already have, and the defense as a whole, it’s going to make us better.
BC: Any advice for the rookie?
ED: I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned from my rookie year till now is taking care of yourself, and preparation is what separates yourself from playing a couple of years in the NFL to playing a long career. Whether that’s watching film, studying your opponent, to the body of work as far as taking care of yourself physically. It’s a long season, it’s a physical game, and you gotta be able to perform at a high level week in, week out.
BC: You were easily the Jets’ leading receiver last season, how excited are you to have Brandon Marshall come in and alleviate some of that pressure?
ED: Very excited. Ever since I’ve been in the NFL, I got to play alongside some great receivers. I had Demaryius Thomas out in Denver, and now having Brandon Marshall on the other side. It’s always going to make me better, not just from a competition standpoint, but watching him work, watching how he studies. He’s a proven receiver so defenses have to pay attention to him. If he’s having a great day, it’s going to give me more one-on-one matchups and vice versa. The game of football is all about one-on-one matchups so that’s great to have another playmaker on our offense to make it be more successful.
BC: I know you were Tim Tebow’s training camp roommate back when you guys were rookies in Denver, what are your thoughts on his unexpected return?
ED: I’m just excited he got another opportunity to play. There’s been a lot of speculation if he should be a quarterback or not, but the fact is he’s just a good leader and great guy. He has definitely made the league better by being around so I’m excited to see how he does. Obviously, they’ve [Philadelphia] got four quarterbacks right now and there’s heavy competition. We’ll just see how things play out, there’s a lot of time before the season starts but at least he’s with the team and gets to continue playing the game he loves very much.
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BC: Off the field, how did your team-up with Purina for the Paw It Forward movement come together?
ED: With our foundation (Eric and Jessie Decker Foundation/Decker’s Dogs), we’re very dog friendly and advocates for rescuing dogs, and in turn, we train them for veterans returning home from war. Purina obviously does a great job in that aspect. With National Pet Month, we wanted to create an initiative that encourages everyone to love their animals, but also to create awareness for those that are in need of that — maybe the ones that are in shelters or have been abused or abandoned. For us to be a part of it was very important in helping raise awareness of that need.
BC: Anything special lined up for your two dogs for National Pet Month?
ED: (Chuckles.) Everyday seems like National Pet Month because they’re spoiled. My dogs are truly spoiled.
BC: One of the three focuses of your foundation is anti-bullying, what types of events have you guys been able to hold in that regard?
ED: Within the Freedom Service Dogs (Decker’s Dogs) organization, we take the dogs during training to different schools, to kids that are in juvie, and we teach them how to communicate properly. It’s pretty cool that we actually have the anti-bullying program within our Decker’s Dogs initiative. We definitely want to be involved in any way and help out because that’s obviously a prevalent issue in our society. With social media now, it’s even a bigger deal. We’re trying to find unique ways to be involved in the community and help out where we can.
BC: With Decker’s Dogs, the process of rescuing a dog, training it be a service dog, and finding a suitable veteran costs around $25,000. With that figure being relatively high for an individual dog, how difficult is the process to raise the necessary funds? What happens to the dogs that don’t make it through the process?
ED: From start to finish, if they make it as a service dog it does cost $25,000, which is a lot of money. But it takes a lot of time (1-2 years) to fully train these dogs. There are dogs that don’t make it through the program. They do learn like 30-40 basic commands, and sometimes there are reasons where they can’t — whether that’s physical or they get scared in public. Those dogs (that don’t make it) actually get adopted to families. Either way these dogs are rescued and given to good families.